Detroit Lions Pre-Camp Notebook: 7/15

By quarterback Jon Kitna's estimation, the Lions got only about 30 percent of their offense installed during the off-season mini-camps, which means they will have a tremendous amount of work facing them at the start of training camp.

ALLEN PARK -- By quarterback Jon Kitna's estimation, the Lions got only about 30 percent of their offense installed during the off-season mini-camps, which means they will have a tremendous amount of work facing them at the start of training camp.

Nevertheless, Kitna -- the pre-camp favorite to emerge with the No. 1 quarterback job -- feels the Lions have a solid basis from which to learn the rest of the Mike Martz offense.

"It's still above the average NFL level and training camp will be much more intensive," Kitna said. "We'll go through 14 practices in the first two weeks; we've had 14 practices the last two months (of OTAs)."

Actually, the Lions will have more like 25 practices in the first two weeks of training camp, with two-a-days scheduled to begin July 28.

NOTES: Coach Rod Marinelli has made a lot of changes -- physical and mental -- in the Lions' approach since he was hired in February, but he says he never considered moving the team away from its Allen Park facility for training camp.

"I wanted to keep as many things the same as I could," Marinelli explained. "Otherwise, I thought it was a hindrance."

Neither was Marinelli eager to hold a combined workout with any other NFL team or teams.

"I really didn't want to do it the first (season)," he said. "Sometimes you have to cut back when you go into it wanting to see certain things. I didn't need an added distraction. I just wanted to make sure this camp goes right, that our installation pace is at our pace that we want and at the tempo we want."

The last time the Lions held an out-of-town training camp was under Marty Mornhinweg, when they practiced at Saginaw Valley State College in 2001. Since the opening of their Allen Park facility, the Lions have held training camp there. It is closed to the public.

-- The Lions saved their franchise player tag and left tackle Jeff Backus got the long-term security he was seeking in an 11th-hour deal worth $15.5 million in guaranteed money on a six-year contract.

The Lions and Backus arrived at the settlement last Thursday afternoon; approximately four and a half months after the team had put the franchise tag on Backus, guaranteeing him $6.98 million for the 2006 season.

Had they not settled on a new contract before the July 14 deadline, the Lions could not have negotiated a new contract until the end of the 2006 season without risking the franchise tag for the duration of Backus' contract.

Although Backus has not reached the elite level of NFL left tackles, he has been a pillar of strength for the Lions -- starting all 80 games since he was taken in the first round of the 2001 draft, playing over injuries and proving himself as one of the hardest workers on the team.

"He embodies what (coach) Rod Marinelli's looking for in terms of football character," said Lions chief operating officer Tom Lewand. "He rarely misses a practice. He's played hurt. He goes above and beyond, and he has developed into one of the most solid left tackles in the league -- solid and steady. He's the kind of guy you can count on day in and day out."

Backus, who is coming off off-season ankle surgery, was clearly miffed at the team's inability to come up with a satisfactory long-term contract at the start of free agency last winter, but he was clearly pleased with the Lions' efforts resulting in the current deal.

"It's a big load off my shoulders," he said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's been a big adjustment but I think we adjusted to it fine. It's a lot faster than we're used to but we're starting to get used to it now, so it's getting to be second nature." -- Running back Kevin Jones on the increased practice tempo under coach Rod Marinelli and his staff.


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